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Environment Agency: Dredging an 'important milestone'

The start of dredging the Somerset Levels is "an important milestone" in the Government's attempts to repair the country after December and January's floods.

Dr Paul Leinster, Chief Executive at the Environment Agency, said:

Today is an important milestone in the work to reduce the risk of flooding to people, property and land in Somerset and we welcome the additional money from Government that has allowed us to undertake this further dredging.

– Dr Paul Leinster

Environment Agency begins dredging Somerset Levels

The Environment Agency will begin dredging river beds in Somerset today as part of wider Government plans to clear up flood hit parts of the country.

Water surrounds flooded properties on the Somerset Levels near Bridgwater in February this year. Credit: PA

Initial work on a 200-metre stretch of the River Parrett will get underway at 9am, ahead of dredging of an eight kilometre stretch of river near where the Tone and Parrett meet at Burrowbridge.

Dredging - where silt and bottom sediment is removed from the riverbed - is part of the Government's £100m 20 Year Flood Action Plan.

The Environment Agency came under huge criticism for failing to dredge the rivers that drain the floodwaters after the south of England was battered by storms.

Flooding throughout December and January of this year is thought to have affected 6,500 homes and businesses as well as leaving some villages completely cut off from the outside world.

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58% of Britain's best farming land at risk from flooding

The head of National Farmers' Union said a "major rethink" was needed in how flood defence spending was allocated.

"We must stop sacrificing our productive farmland to crazy, rampant and thoughtless urbanisation," Peter Kendall said at a conference.

Around 6,500 properties were flooded in the recent months Credit: TN/AztecMedia Skycam

Mr Kendall said: "58% of our most productive land sits below the 5m contour line and it is at risk from flooding. Policy makers simply have to put higher value on it."

He said that while farmland can and should in extreme circumstances act as a temporary buffer for water to protect people's lives and homes, it shouldn't be viewed as a long-term storage facility. "It's primary job is to feed this country," he added.

Somerset farmer: Floods clean-up will be 'dreadful'

James Hall, a farmer previously featured on ITV News, says the water levels at his farm are improving but the extent of the damage is becoming more apparent.

Government announces £5,000 for each flood-hit farm

The Government has announced rural homes and businesses impacted by floods will have access to one-off grants up to £5,000 to make them more resilient.

Farming minister George Eustice said businesses which have been directly affected by flooding will be able access £10 million of government support from Friday.

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Govt: Business rate payment 'delayed' for flood victims

George Eustice said flood hit businesses would be not be expected to pay business rates within the usual time frame. Credit: Daybreak/ITV

The Government has offered help "to all businesses who have been affected by floods", the farming minister has told Daybreak.

George Eustice said the Government had delayed "the payment of business rates" and "have asked HMRC to be lenient on businesses".

Experts call for more to be done to manage flood risk

Climate experts have called for more to be done to manage Britain's flood risk after the Environment Agency warned that they cannot protect all people and properties.

Britain was severely hit by storms and floods this winter. Credit: PA Wire

Professor Jim Hall, director of the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford said major lessons had been learnt since the 2007 floods, but said the UK still seemed to be in a mode of "discovery by disaster".

He called for a package of measures to be adopted to manage flood risk but said we had to admit "we cannot prevent against every risk".

Professor Roger Falconer, director of the Hydro-environmental Research Centre at Cardiff University, said he hoped to see more engineers involved in work to prevent and reduce the impact of flooding.

EA 'can't protect all people and properties' from floods

The Environment Agency cannot protect all people and properties but will do what it can, a senior executive at the organisation has said.

Parts of the UK have been severely affected by storms this winter with around 6,500 properties flooded.

The Somerset Levels was left devastated by recent floods. Credit: PA Wire

The Met Office revealed that the UK had suffered its wettest winter since records began last week.

David Rooke, the executive director of flood and coastal risk management at the agency, said the wet conditions would continue this week but the agency would try and reduce the impact.

"We have got high tides this week and rainfall. The Environment Agency is still in operation mode doing all we can to minimise risk. We cannot protect all people and all properties but we will do all we can," he said, adding that the agency had protected more than 1.3 million homes.

Environment Agency 'will continue with job cut plans'

The Environment Agency says it will continue with plans to reduce its costs, including cuts in jobs.

In January, it announced it would cut more than 1,500 jobs.

The Environment Agency says recent flooding has presented "huge challenges" Credit: Steve Parsons/PA Archive

The agency has announced that proposed redundancies have been suspended while the flooding crisis continues.

The GMB union hit out at "successive years of central government cuts that have trimmed maintenance budgets to unsustainable levels."

The Environment Agency's Toby Willison said the organisation had faced "huge challenges" as a result of the floods.

"The planned reductions in posts will not affect the Environment Agency's ability to respond to flooding incidents and the Environment Agency will minimise the impact on other front line services through the changes" he added.

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